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“You’re getting 100% Russell Westbrook every single play” – Olden Polynice praises Russell Westbrook’s dedication, says he’s never cheated fans

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NBA journeyman center Olden Polynice defended struggling LA Lakers guard Russell Westbrook on Thursday’s Spotify podcast episode of “The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard & Rob Parker.”

Polynice said:

“You’re getting 100% of Russell Westbrook every play.”

https://open.spotify.com/episode/3nDcyiGYB5ZbHQzmF7IoW2?si=3de4a504708d4e04

Russell Westbrook this season

In the wake of the LA Lakers’ massive trades in August, they were considered playoff contenders. However, Los Angeles (21-21) has been a middling team all season. Westbrook, especially his large turnover rate, has been the focus of much of the criticism for the team’s ills.

Polynice, who played for five franchises (with two stints at the LA Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics) over 15 seasons in the NBA, digresses from this.

Polynice said:

“He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s gonna be, he’s one of the best players to ever play the game. The one thing I’ve always loved about Russell Westbrook, he’s never cheated fans.”

Standing with the most triple-doubles in the NBA at 192, Westbrook is a notable force in the league. Although he’s one of the most explosive players in league history, his speed often leads him to play with a lack of control.

The Lakers need Westbrook to practice playing at a slower speed and understand when to use his speed to his advantage. Many of his turnovers have been unexcused passes far into the stands, not just minor mistakes on something off a pick or a switch.

Of Westbrook, Polynice said:

“He’s allowing the outside noise to get to him and you need to get a grip on it sooner rather than later,” Polynice said.

Westbrook continues to play at a speed and intensity that is thrilling to his fans, but with his forced plays, he is losing the ball too often. With Los Angeles having so many veterans, it would be much easier to slow down the pace and use the team’s immense collective basketball IQ.

Although Westbrook is averaging 4.4 turnovers per game this season, it is close to his career average of 4.1. Even with holding the NBA record for most career turnovers per game, that mark is something Russ has always been known for and played above nonetheless.

In fact, in his first 13 seasons, Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star and was the MVP in 2017. He led the NBA in scoring in 2015 and 2017 and in assists in 2018 ’19 and ’21. Plus, as a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team, Westbrook has proved to be one of the all time greats.

Polynice was accurate in saying fans see 100% of Westbrook 100% of the time, but it seems those numbers may be dwindling lately. He needs to get the audience’s negativity out of his head and focus on playing the type of basketball he is known for.


Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein





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Four Mike McCarthy decisions that may have doomed Cowboys in wild-card loss to 49ers

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Not many people want to be like Mike. McCarthy, that is.

The Cowboys were bounced from the playoffs on Sunday courtesy of old foe San Francisco, falling to the 49ers at home 23-17. The game came down to the wire, with a highly controversial final play call ultimately dooming the Cowboys as the clock expired. But, as it goes in football, it’s never just one decision that makes or breaks a game.

To that end, as is custom with Mike McCarthy-coached games, this one was wrought with head-scratchers and decisions that, well, probably shouldn’t have been made. Whether it was penalties in crucial situations, a severe lack of discipline from his players or on-field decisions that he either called or allowed to happen, the Cowboys head coach played a big part in how the game turned out.

IYER: Dissecting the Cowboys’ playoff fail vs. 49ers

Here are some of the more questionable decisions that may have played into the outcome: 

Strange timeout usage

McCarthy is known for sketchy clock management. That was apparent in the first half Sunday.

With the time winding down in the first half (about a minute remaining) and a third-and-19 with the clock running, Dallas opted not to use a timeout to get itself into a more favorable position for the ensuing play. Instead, Dak Prescott and Cedrick Wilson couldn’t connect on a pass. Wilson seemed to have been blinded by the sun.

Dallas was also down 16-7 at the time and was receiving the second-half kickoff, which would have put Dallas in prime position to double up. Instead, it punted with 35 seconds left. San Francisco started on its own 3-yard line.

Here’s where things get even weirder: McCarthy called two of his three timeouts with the 49ers seemingly trying to drain the clock to get to the half, perhaps in the hope that Dallas would get the ball back for a last-ditch shot at a punt return. 

Nothing about the sequence made much sense: If you were determined to score, why not call the timeout on third down? Why rush into that call? 

Bizarre fake punt sequence

In the third quarter, the Cowboys pulled off a well-timed and well-executed fake punt that gave them a crucial fourth-down conversion. What happened next was truly strange.

On the ensuing first down, Dallas kept its punt unit on the field, but obviously it wasn’t going to punt. Instead, it was trying to fake the 49ers into calling a timeout in the confusion. The 49ers didn’t, and with about 18 seconds left on the play clock, the Cowboys’ offense rushed to the field to run a play.

The play clock expired and the Cowboys were assessed a penalty for delay of game. The ensuing play calls weren’t inspiring, with the Cowboys eventually opting to kick a 51-yard field goal.

That leads to . . .

The questionable field goal

When you have an opportunity to kick a field goal to take it from a two-score game to . . . a two-score game, you just gotta do it.

After the fake punt sequence detailed above, the Cowboys eventually settled for a Greg Zuerlein 51-yard field goal. Why, exactly? Your guess, fair reader, is as good as everyone else’s.

If Dallas was determined to run the fake punt to get the first down, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t have gone for it on fourth-and-7 from the San Francisco 33 to put itself in position to score a touchdown. Instead, it settled for the field goal to close the gap to 23-10 with the fourth quarter forthcoming. That’s still a 13-point deficit, better known as a two-score game.

Certainly, you put your team behind the 8-ball a bit if you do go for it, fail to convert and the 49ers score on the next possession after being given good field position. But the logic seems backward: Why risk it with the fake punt, potentially putting the 49ers in great field position, but decide against going for it a few minutes later when you are in better field position and needing a score? None of it makes sense.

In McCarthy’s defense, the difference in win probabilities from kicking the field goal vs. going for it was negligible, per ESPN. It’s not necessarily about added win probability, though, as it was putting your team in a spot to get closer.

And McCarthy was bailed out somewhat by an ill-timed interception by Jimmy Garoppolo on the ensuing drive. The Cowboys would score a touchdown to tighten the game to 23-17. Ultimately, that was the final score.

MORE: Jerry Jones is pretty disappointed after the Cowboys’ wild-card loss

Still, the decision to kick wasn’t the greatest. 

That final play call

McCarthy and the Cowboys got very, very cute with the final play call of the game. It was a gamble at best and a downright disgusting, nonsensical play at worse.

With the clock ticking and the Cowboys needing a touchdown to win, a designed quarterback draw gave Prescott 17 yards. Unfortunately, the clock kept running, and it didn’t leave Prescott any time for a last-ditch attempt at the end zone.

Needless to say, there was a lot of confusion — and anger — surrounding that play call. McCarthy, though, stood by it postgame.

“That was the best option. … It’s like anything else. Do you want to be running the Hail Mary play from the 50-yard line, or you want to be running a five-verticals from the 25-yard line? That was the decision. It’s the right decision,” he said.

There are more than a few questions that should be asked, though:

  • Was it McCarthy’s call to run that play or offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s?
  • Did the game end because time expired after the run, or did Prescott’s spike after the run officially end the game?
  • Why run the ball there, rather than take two shots at the end zone?

No matter which way you slice it, it seemed like a pretty bad call.

Well, there’s always next year, Cowboys fans.

MORE: What, exactly, happened on that last play?





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“Most indispensable day-to-day NBA star this year”

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Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant has recently been diagnosed with a sprained MCL and is out for an indefinite period. His unavailability for the foreseeable future has drawn many reactions from pundits and fans alike.

The entire dynamic of the Nets season has changed with this announcement, as things will undoubtedly get harder for them moving forward. While many would like to blame the injury on the large number of minutes he logged this season, it was purely accidental. As Bruce Brown bumped into him while trying to defend the New Orleans Pelicans’ Herbert Jones in transition midway through the second quarter.

With many expressing their disappointment with the development, the founder of The Ringer, Bill Simmons, took to Twitter to give his take on how Kevin Durant’s absence will affect the Nets and his chances at winning the MVP award.

“Such a bummer. That was a vintage KD season with a huge minutes load, now he’s out 4-8 weeks (who knows?). Most indispensable day-to-day NBA star this year other than maybe Jokic. Hard to imagine Nets staying in top-3 in East. MVP race wide-wide-wide-wide-open.”

Such a bummer. That was a vintage KD season with a huge minutes load, now he’s out 4-8 weeks (who knows?). Most indispensable day-to-day NBA star this year other than maybe Jokic. Hard to imagine Nets staying in top-3 in East. MVP race wide-wide-wide-wide-open. twitter.com/ianbegley/stat…

Although Kevin Durant has dropped from the top spot in the MVP leaderboard in the past few weeks, he still has a decent shot of winning the award despite being ranked No. 3. Unfortunately, missing an extended period of game time will not help his case.

Durant’s influence on the team in helping them win every other night is unmatched, making him one of the most indispensable stars in the league, as rightly pointed out by Simmons. Nonetheless, the Nets have a fighting chance with Kyrie Irving back in the lineup.


Can the Brooklyn Nets remain in the top three without Kevin Durant?

Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers
Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers

The Nets have the quality of players that can help them remain competitive in Durant’s absence. But they have not been as entirely dependable as many had hoped.

James Harden has struggled for the better part of the season but will have to step up if the team is to remain in the top three of the Eastern Conference standings. Kyrie’s return could not have been timed better, as the Nets have another superstar to help their cause.

Kyrie, although a part-time player, is allowed to play road games. This will be a significant boost for the Nets during this tough period. Luckily, 11 of their next 17 fixtures will be on the road, which means they stand a good chance of winning those games with Kyrie combining with Harden.

There has been chatter in the NBA community suggesting Kyrie could play home games if the Nets are willing to pay a small fine. Perhaps that would be an opportunity the organization would have jumped at given their current predicament. But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has cleared the air on the subject, saying that teams have to comply with local laws.

To be clear on the hypothetical ability for a team to pay a fine for an unvaccinated player to play in a marketplace that local ordinances forbid: NBA memo to organizations on September 1 says that teams must follow local laws and players who don’t comply won’t be able to play.

Kevin Durant was having an astounding season so far, leading the league in scoring with 29.3 points per game. Sadly, a projected four-week absence will give the opportunity for players like LeBron James (28.9) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.5) to surpass him.






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LeBron James apologizes to Lakers fans: ‘I promise we’ll be better’

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Things aren’t exactly going to plan in Laker land, with the team currently sitting at 21-22 in seventh place in the Western Conference standings. 

NBA League Pass: Sign up to unlock live out-of-market games (7-day free trial)

Fresh off a 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, — their third in a row, LeBron James, who did not address the media after the game, took to Twitter on Sunday apologizing to Laker fans, promising to “be better.”

The 37-year-old has been on a tear for the Lakers of late and for the season is averaging 28.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks on 51.9 percent shooting and 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. LeBron also leads the NBA with 19 30-point games, however, the Lakers are just 10-9 in those games.

Lakers legend Magic Johnson hit out at the team’s lack of effort following their loss to the Nuggets, imploring them to play with a “sense of urgency.”

After the game, point guard Russell Westbrook was asked about Johnson’s comments, but didn’t have much to say, telling reporters that Johnson isn’t around the team often enough to know what’s happening behind the scenes. 

MORE: Magic Johnson hits out at Lakers’ lack of effort

“I do not have a reaction,” Westbrook said. “Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion. Regardless of what that it is. You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you can not respond to it.

“We just got to play hard. Sometimes the schemes and how you play doesn’t really matter. You got to just play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, simple as that.”

The Lakers season has been interrupted by injury and COVID-19 related absences, however, they are set to receive a big boost at the end of January, with big man Anthony Davis expected to return after being sidelined with an MCL sprain.

With the All-Star break on the horizon, the Lakers have plenty of work to do to make their way up the standings, after some disappointing performances against the league’s contending teams. They hold a 5-11 record against teams .500 or above, with their last win against a .500 team coming against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 15.





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